“Tweed” is the Denim of academia. Nothing screams “I am an academic” like tweed. In fact, there is an
academic editing service named after it. This textile and the academy have been almost synonymous for so long, it is no wonder younger generation scholars tend to shy away from it.
On Hollywood, a professor without a tweed jacket is an anomaly. At least this has been the case until recently when we started having style-slaying professors like Viola Davies on How to Get Away with Murder (she gets away with leather too).
Should we write this “academic-denim” off completely now that there appears to be a gradual style revolution in the beautiful world of academia? I say no! Let’s re-invent it instead. But before then, here’s a brief overview of its history:
“Tweed is the nearest thing the British have to ethnic national dress”. For many centuries, Tweed was a peasant cloth until King Edward VII (1841-1910) took interest in it and brought it to public notice. The Edwardian gentlefolk and new middle classes began to adopt Tweed into their wardrobes after. Historically, Tweed was produced by artisans and skilled craft workers “in the sort of rustic industry that has all but disappeared from the British mainlands.” It originated in rural Scotland and is still produced there. Leading fashion designers, such as Mary Quant and Vivienne Westwood, have also incorporated the fabric into their designs over time. Coco Chanel’s iconic tweed outfit is unforgettable.
How did Tweed become a staple style in academia? We don’t really know, but there are some interesting (and funny) speculations on Reddit. The even more important question today is how can we keep the Tweed trend contemporary and academically iconic?
You can wear it in a different colour to the conventional dusty brown. Popular academic blogger, Chic in Academia, does a fantastic styling job in a mint green jacket below.
Also, as opposed to a jacket, you can wear it in a skirt or an accessory like a handbag.
This fabric is here to stay in academia, and at Stylish Academic, we love it!
The Very Recent Fall and Rise of Harris Tweed (co-authored Kirsty McDougal). Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture. Volume 10, Issue 1, 2012, pp 78-99